A plan for one of the largest tracts of land in the Town of Islip is set for more changes after residents and officials raised questions about it at a lengthy -- and at times heated -- public hearing.
The Serota Properties' Islip Pines project on 140 acres at Veterans Memorial and Sunrise Highways in Holbrook calls for more than 400,000 square feet of retail space, including two box stores. It would also have a 2,500-seat cinema complex, a 200-room hotel, more than a million square feet of industrial space, some office space, 250 residential units and a 4.1-acre park to accommodate athletic fields and public recreation.
It would bring 900 construction jobs and 2,600 permanent jobs, the developer says, as well as increase annual property taxes paid by the site from $500,000 to $6 million per year.
But the proposal, which has the support of the Long Island Builders Institute, unions and Long Island Association head Kevin Law, faced a mostly contentious crowd of more than 150 and tough questions from town board members at a more than three-hour public hearing on Thursday.
The site plan design and its impact on traffic and nearby downtowns were key concerns.
Supervisor Tom Croci said Serota had agreed to fund an independent study into those potential effects. After the meeting, he said it could take months before the proposal is formally back before the town.
Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt, who criticized placement of the industrial elements of the design along the property's north side, closest to nearby residents, asked Serota attorney Bram Weber: "Would you consider wiping the slate clean and starting over?"
Weber said a lot of work had gone into the plan since it was proposed in 2008, but that the developer remained open to suggestions for reasonable changes. The property needs a zoning variance, and Serota and the town have been trying to agree on the mixed-use proposal for four years.
Speaking after the hearing, council members said they wanted to see a different mix.
Councilman John Cochrane said the proposal had "too much blacktop and not enough green" and he was concerned about traffic. Councilman Steve Flotteron said he remained open-minded, but Serota "has a lot of homework to do . . . but, from where I stood, they haven't built a lot of community support."
Weber said a consultant had knocked on more than 200 doors in adjacent communities and spoken with a range of community and civic groups; and the developer would continue community outreach.
He noted that in 28 years, Serota had paid more than $10 million in property taxes without achieving a penny in return and that "significant" funds were set aside so that work could start immediately after final approval.
"We really believe in this plan," he said afterward. If too much pressure was applied by the town or from other areas for major change, the developer could walk away, Weber said.
Planning Commissioner Dave Genaway said he believed compromise was possible. "If the site plan can be designed properly, it could be a positive development for our town -- it's about getting the land-use mix right."